Kiwi FinTech is back for another year, and it’s high time we introduce the team that will run the show for the next few months. Meet Michelle, the Kiwi FinTech Programme Director.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My focus throughout my career has been to help businesses, particularly tech businesses, unlock their potential.
I’ve done that in a bunch of ways – I’ve been self-employed, a business owner, and worked for global hi-growth innovative SaaS companies (SLI Systems, Linewize) in Commerce, EdTech and cyber safety. My introduction to FinTech was as the GM of Xero partner PracticePlus, so I have pretty extensive experience with the Xero Add-on ecosystem,
I’ve been part of the Christchurch post-quake tech and startup scene based out of EPIC, which was the first shared space to reopen in the CBD. Bringing together 18 earthquake-displaced tech companies, it became a real ideas hub and was instrumental in seeding the innovation precinct you see there now.
In my downtime, you can find me flying planes or teaching yoga.
Why are you passionate about startups?
I have total empathy for what a thrilling and difficult challenge it is, as I’ve been through it. I sold my house and took a business from a one-page business plan through to a company employing over 20 staff. It’s never been easier to set up a business. There are massive opportunities available now to grow and scale a global tech startup, perhaps to be the next NZ ‘unicorn’ like Xero, and to get investment ready relatively quickly. Getting mentors, advisors and potential investors in early, can have a hugely beneficial impact; it’s too easy as a founder to be absorbed in BAU with a focus on the ‘urgent’ over the important. I’m also passionate about developing capabilities in individuals, as often the best companies come from incorporating the learnings from ‘first time around’ experience.
What are you most excited about for Kiwi FinTech Accelerator 2019?
We’ve had some great success in the previous accelerator programmes, particularly with Sharesies, Hnry, JRNY, Invsta and Choice. But I want to see more! Disruptive technologies are revolutionising traditional financial services and FinTech is such a growing area of innovation that this year our Accelerator will be running across three locations simultaneously; Wellington, Auckland, and Invercargill. Over three months teams will get access to world-class expertise, innovators, mentors, advisors and investors in the financial sector to help validate their business models. There are some real pain points in our society that FinTech can provide a solution for.
Is this accelerator just for startups?
The Accelerator is for both startups looking to develop their MVP, and also for mature stage companies post-product/post-revenue that are looking to be more investment ready. The programme offers easy access to partners, with the potential for these partnerships to really move the needle on their business trajectory. We are happy to negotiate the equity terms for mature stage companies.
What advice would you give potential applicants?
The Kiwi FinTech Accelerator is essentially a rocketship for people wanting to take their venture to the next level, and we’ve seen our alumni go on to great things. Give consideration to all the business capabilities you’ll need in your team to commercialise your company. Technical strength is important but you also need to communicate your value proposition and be able to tell your business story, including to investors on Demo Day!